Chocolate Peanut Butter Mousse with Avocado

christineHey everybody!  This is Christine, the NMA’s little sister.  I’m so excited to be writing this guest post!  After all, I have been a busy bee following this blog, commenting, sharing it on Facebook, working on the logo, and trying out the recipes for myself.  Now it’s my turn to share what I love: desserts!  As Matt has mentioned, I work as a baker for a vegetarian restaurant.  Before that, I worked for two years as the head baker at a boutique style cupcakery.  I also am working on starting my own business, Bellylaugh Bakery (you can check out some fun photos of my cakes here).

For the next month, I will be checking in each Friday with a new healthy recipe to satisfy your sweet tooth!  I find people are unnecessarily intimidated by baking mainly from what I believe are poorly written recipes and most of all inaccurate baking times. So for this first recipe I thought we could ease into it by keeping the oven off.  Hopefully we can enjoy some awesome desserts that encompass the same real-food (not health-food!) values we apply to the rest of our meals.

The idea for this series of dessert posts occurred to me after reading Matt’s article on the two faces of vegetarianism (the soy “not dog” versus the fabulous fresh goodies from the farmer’s market).  I was making a vegan blackbottom cheesecake, and while it looked pretty and tasted yummy, the ingredients were nagging me.  All I could think about were all the different varieties of soy product that went in it.  Often a vegan dessert is just a copy of a traditional dessert, really no different than a not-dog copy of a hot dog.  It just seems like an odd choice when we put so much into planning our meals the rest of the day.

I guess that explains the guilt that people usually associate with eating dessert.  Even traditional non-vegan desserts have a guilty stigma; think about how often they are described as sinful.  That’s probably because in every other meal we choose canola oil over butter, wheat flour over white, etc.   Then in one sitting we eat more butter than we normally would have all week.

mousse-with-avocadoI know, I know, a dessert is supposed to be a treat (especially for people who are vegan) so just ease up, right?  Sure, I do believe we deserve to indulge, I just think there is a better way.  We are going to get creative using natural sweeteners, flour alternatives, and healthy fats.  You like pumpkin pie right?  Carrot cake?  Zucchini bread?  Those are a couple of examples of veggies we’ve already accepted into the dessert world; now it’s time to introduce some more, starting with the avocado.  (Oh wait, an avocado’s a fruit!)

Let’s get started with this week’s NMA dessert: chocolate peanut butter mousse!  (Shh it’s made from avocado!)

I have heard of using avocado and chocolate together (chocamole, anyone?) but I was wary of it tasting healthy in a contrived way, without any of the fun indulgent part.  Boy was I wrong!  I developed this recipe just starting with the avocados and chocolate, tasting it as I went and deciding what it needed it terms of sweetness and chocolatey goodness.   For the chocolate I used Baker’s brand which is made only from chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, an emulsifier, and vanilla.  Unfortunately it shares equipment that processes milk, so if you want true vegan go with Tropical Source semi-sweet chips.  The addition of the peanut butter really sealed the deal on making sure there was no avocado aftertaste.  The end result was so creamy and delicious.  People will be amazed when they find out the secret!  Here’s what I came up with:

Chocolate Mousse with Avocado Recipe

4 oz semisweet chocolate
1 tbs canola oil
2 avocados
2 tbs cocoa
2 tbs pure maple syrup
2 tbs honey (if you don’t eat honey, agave nectar or more maple syrup is fine)
2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
1/4 cup natural peanut butter

Put the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and stir to coat with the canola oil.  Microwave for 45 seconds.  Stir, then microwave for 30 seconds.  Repeat with decreasing times until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  In a separate bowl, mash the avocado roughly with a fork or pastry cutter, then whisk to get the lumps out.  You can use a food processor if you’d like, but I just beat the crap out of it with a hand whisk.  Combine the melted chocolate with the smooth avocado.  Add the remaining ingredients except for the peanut butter.  (Measure the syrup and honey with the same spoon you used for the oil so that it slides right out.)  Use a spatula to force the mousse through a fine mesh strainer to seriously get any last lumps out.  Then add the peanut butter.  Makes four servings.  Small but rich!  Top with sprinkles, fruit, or anything your heart desires and dig in.


Hope you enjoy this chocolate peanut butter mousse and feel good about eating it too!   I really was nuts for it.  It’s delicious room temperature or chilled.  I was particularly stoked about how well it firmed up in the fridge overnight- I’m thinking with a few alterations it has potential for delicious (and healthy) icebox pie filling!  But that’s for another post…

Until next Friday, stay sweet!

xoxo Christine



Chobani Greek Yogurt Giveaway

Sounds like most of the challengers are sticking with it!  I was a little concerned that not many comments were coming in, thinking you had all bailed on me.  Then I remembered that I didn’t post yesterday until almost five P.M., so it was my fault for throwing off everyone’s routine.  Anyway, if you’re wavering, just hang in there for a few more weeks.  Don’t think of it as permanent deprivation, but as making a promise to yourself and keeping it.  If you want more out of life in any area, then you must be able to keep a promise to yourself.  It’s easy to keep promises to others, but those you make to yourself are so important.  That’s why I like to tell others about a commitment; it becomes a promise to them as well.

Chobani Giveaway

What is this, a Tony Robbins seminar?  Enough of that–look what showed up at my door yesterday!  The box, not the flowers.  Don’t mind those, they’re just part of my don’t-be-the-world’s-worst-husband campaign.


And inside, a bunch of refrigerated 0% fat Chobani Greek Yogurts.  Good thing they were refrigerated, ’cause it’s mad hot out in Maryland these days.


I tried the peach one and I loved it!  The peach flavor was really natural and fresh-tasting.  Man, I love peach stuff.  I’ll keep you posted as I try the others.

The interesting thing about Chobani, as compared to the other brand I tried a few weeks ago, is that it has all the nutrition of Greek yogurt, but still tastes like really good, slightly creamier, traditional yogurt.   The other brand was extremely creamy, making it great in smoothies and for replacing sour cream in recipes.  But when you’re in the mood for a yogurt by itself, that one might be a little on the thick side.

There’s a place for the thick stuff in my fridge, but Chobani is the one I’d choose for my everyday yogurt to eat on its own.  Plus, it’s the more affordable of the two, important if you want to eat it every day with lunch or for a snack.  And if you’re a no-meat athlete like me, that’s a great way to get some more protein in your diet, since Greek yogurt has so much more of it than regular yogurt.

But here’s the best part:  Chobani has been nice enough to offer up a pack of yogurts for a lucky No Meat Athlete reader!  What constitutes a “pack,” you ask?  That’s anyone’s guess… 2, 4, 6, 12?  A lifetime supply?  You’ll just have to win to find out.

Here’s all you have to do to enter.  Go to Chobani’s website and look at their list of flavors.  Leave a comment on my blog with your best idea for a fun way to use a flavor of Chobani.  I’ll go first: honey flavored Chobani with banana nut granola (don’t worry, I can’t win my own contest).  I’ll select the winner however I choose!  Maybe the best-sounding snack, or will I resort to a random draw?  As a math guy I do love me some randomness, and I have just the software to do it right.  No, I won’t do that.  Or will I?  No.  Or maybe I will.  Whatever the method, I’ll choose the winner on Monday morning, so get your comment in by then!

Come back tomorrow for a very special (and slightly sweet) No Meat Athlete surprise post!



Tomato Pesto and a Near Dough-Disaster

Today marks two weeks since I’ve had any caffeinated coffee!  This 30-Day Challenge has definitely made me realize one thing–30 days is a long time.  When I first committed to this, I was worried that it wouldn’t really be enough time to break the habit.  But let me tell you, these first two weeks have felt like an eternity!  I no longer have any doubt that a whole month is enough to get me out of this caffeine routine.  If I do choose to start drinking it occasionally after the 30-Day Challenge is over, at least I’ll know that it’s a conscious decision, not some automatic, impulsive drive over which I am powerless.  How are the other 30-Day Challenges going?  Anybody jump ship on us yet?

Tomato Pesto

tomato-pestoI got sort of pasta’d-out a few weeks ago, since it tends to be my fallback when I haven’t planned a meal and the sands in the hourglass are running out on Erin’s arrival home from work.  Because if she gets home from a long day at the hospital and there’s no dinner on the table and I’m in my underwear watching Pardon the Interruption, believe me, it isn’t pretty.

But the other day I figured that two weeks is enough of a break, so I got out the apron and did the only thing I enjoy more than watching ESPN in my knickers–make fresh pasta!  I almost always use King Arthur whole wheat flour when I make pasta, but this time I bought Hodgson Mill brand.  We’ve been buying their dried pasta recently and I’ve enjoyed it, so I saved a couple bucks–King Arthur is almost five dollars a bag–and bought the Hodgson Mill.

After I mixed about 4 cups of the flour with five eggs, a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt, then kneaded for 15 minutes, the dough seemed a little coarse, but not alarmingly so:


After I let it rest for half an hour, we transported the dough and our Kitchen Aid over to my still-healing dad’s house to make dinner for him.  But when Erin tried to roll the pasta, near-disaster struck.   The dough was so coarse that it came out of the roller in crumbles!  It turns out in my Hodgson Mill excitement, I had purchased stone ground whole wheat flour, and that was the cause of the coarseness.  Don’t do this!  Thankfully, Erin has become pretty adept at averting fresh-pasta emergencies, and she saved this one by adding a good bit of water to the dough and rolling it lots of extra times.  Here it is on the road to improvement:


And finally, it was saved.


The pasta actually turned out to be pretty good.  A little bit rustic, but not bad at all.  Let’s leave it at “I’ll never buy stone ground flour for pasta again.”

My dad had found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated magazine for a tomato pesto.  I love a nice pesto and I was curious to try one with tomatoes, so we figured it would make a good post-surgery treat for him.  It turned out to be just ok.  The others at the table seemed to enjoy it, but I wasn’t thrilled.  For me it was just too liquidy.  In the recipe I’m giving you, I first remove the liquid from the tomatoes, and then increase the amount of almonds, garlic, and cheese.  If you make it, I’d love to hear how it is, so leave me a comment!

I have a few blog surprises in the works for the rest of the week; can’t wait to get them posted, so check back soon!

Tomato Pesto Recipe

Homemade Tomato Pesto
Serves: 4-6 Servings
  • ⅓ cup almonds, blanched
  • 5 plum tomatoes, halved, seeds and liquid removed and discarded
  • ½ cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 small pepperoncini, seeded
  • ⅓ cup canola or olive oil
  • 2 oz grated parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano really would be best)
  • 1 lb pasta, dried or fresh
  • 1 tsp salt, more at table
  1. Lightly toast the almonds, then let them cool. In a food processor, process the almonds, tomatoes, basil, garlic, pepperoncini, and salt, until it's combined but still has a little texture. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil. Toss with parmesan cheese.
  2. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Cook fresh pasta the same as you would dried, but it only takes 2-4 minutes to cook. Toss with pesto and add salt as needed.


Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry with Green Peas

Well, I was a little sore after Sunday’s 5k, but nothing too bad.  I’m back at it today with a track workout this evening, weather permitting.  And then next week, my 16-week marathon training program begins!  16 weeks seems like such a short time, but when I realize that this blog isn’t yet 11 weeks old, it seems a long way off.  I’m so excited about my recent race times that I kind of wish the marathon were even sooner.  Not that I think I’m in any kind of shape to qualify for Boston yet; I just want that day to be here.

Killer No-Meat Curry

[curry photo]

Yesterday I made this sweet potato curry from a new cookbook I got on sale at Barnes & Noble over the weekend, Williams-Sonoma Food Made Fast: Vegetarian.  You might recall that I made a cauliflower curry a few weeks ago and used tandoori powder.  Though I liked it a lot, I was a little disappointed because it didn’t have that deep, traditional, restaurant curry flavor that I love so much.  So I used regular old McCormick curry powder in this one, and it was great!  Plus, it’s cooked in a dutch oven, and boy do I love using my dutch oven.  And not just because “dutch oven” makes me chuckle every time I say it to myself.  Dutch oven.  🙂

I have this anal-retentive friend, let’s just call him Drat, who runs the blog So Neat Mathlete.  He has a strange obsession with neat, uniform things, so he coerced me into posting a few photos of the ingredients after I diced them all so nicely.  Until I learned a few basic knife skills, my ingredients often turned to mush because I had to chop them so much to get the largest pieces down to size.  But now that I’m in the know, chopping is faster, neater and even a little bit fun (for Drat, that is).  So one of these days I’ll add a chopping section to the new How to Follow Recipes page.

[Diced ingredients 2 photo]

[Diced ingredients 1 photo]

Anyway, the curry turned out really well.  It was the best curry I’ve ever made (but I haven’t made many), and the whole thing only took about half an hour, most of which was just simmering time.  I’ve determined that coconut milk is the key to making good curry at home.  I used to just sprinkle curry powder on a piece of chicken or some vegetables and wonder why it didn’t have the depth of flavor that I associate with curry.  Coconut milk is a way to get that depth quickly.  Plus, coconut is so good for you once in a while; get over your 1980’s and early-90’s saturated fat hangup, Zack Morris.

All in all, a great meal.  I give it 4 cows for taste, 4.5 for the total package of taste, ease of preparation, and nutrition.  Very substantial and filling, with complex carbohydrates (brown rice) and lots of protein, if that’s your thing.  Definitely NMA-approved fuel for no-meat marathoner.  Here’s my ever-so-slightly adapted recipe.  Make it.

Sweet Potato and Chickpea Curry Recipe

Ingredients (for 4 servings):

  • Cooked brown rice, however you like it (we used 2 boil-in-bags this time)
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 large sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 15-oz can chickpeas
  • 15-oz can coconut milk, solid and liquid parts mixed (just shake the can)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup water

In a heavy saucepan (Dutch oven if you have it!), heat the oil over medium-low heat.  After the pan has heated up for a few minutes, add the onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno.  Cook for about 5 minutes until everything is softened.  Add the curry powder and stir for 30 seconds.  Add salt and pepper (I added a lot of salt, almost a tablespoon).

Add the sweet potato, chickpeas, coconut milk, and water to the pan.  Increase the heat and bring to a boil.  As soon as it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the sweet potato is tender.  It took about 15 minutes for me.  Add the peas and tomatoes; stir occasionally until they’re heated through, about 4 more minutes.  Serve over brown rice.



“How To Follow Recipes” Page Added

Ok, I finally got the first version of my “How To Follow Recipes” page up and running.  But are we so real-food-challenged that we need a how-to for recipes?  Aren’t recipes already how-to’s?

When I started cooking, I made a lot of mistakes, even when I tried to follow recipes to the letter.  At the very beginning, for example, I thought “clove of garlic” meant the entire bulb.  Disaster!  And besides screwing up a lot of meals, I took a looooong time to buy and prep the ingredients for even basic dishes.

For now, it’s just a list of ingredients with tips I’ve learned about each one.  Some have one tip, some have lots of tips. The idea is that as new cooks come across an ingredient that they haven’t cooked with or want to know more about, they can read up on it.  And hey, if it saves even one family from a whole bulb of minced garlic in their spaghetti sauce and the unfathomable consequences, then it has all been worth it.

Over the next few days, I’ll add links under each ingredient to a few of my meals that use it.  And I’ll eventually get around to including some pictures, videos, and more how-to, like efficient chopping technique and other ways to save time.

Check it out and let me know what you think.  I’m open to any ideas you might have that can help people who are new to their kitchens, which in most households are not being used nearly as much as they should.  As Michael Pollan said, “Learning to cook is the key to taking back our food.”  Join the movement and start cooking some real food!



A Sub-20 5K!

[Erin, Matt, and Pete photo]

I did it!  I finished the Bel Air Town Run today in 19:16, well under my goal time of 19:59.  49th place overall, just like last weekend (weird huh?).  This is a 6:13 per-mile pace.  A few months ago, before I got injured and before I stopped eating meat, I ran three miles at 6:30 pace as part of a track workout, and I was totally gassed by the end.  Since then, my training has largely been rehab and rest, so there’s no explanation for such an improvement in fitness other than my diet.  Funny, I was convinced, through years of being told “athletes need protein,” that a vegetarian diet would be a hindrance in my quest to qualify for Boston this year.  By all measures so far, it has been the opposite.

Erin also had a great run today, finishing in 28:29.  She’s been biking a ton recently, so much that she has only run a handful of times in the past few months.  So she was pleasantly surprised by her time today as well.  Erin really liked the course; she’s such an outdoors type of girl that she always pays attention to that stuff.  I like to call myself an indoorsman; the only thing I noticed about the course today was the few feet of road that were always in front of me.  Pete also ran the race today, just a few weeks after committing to run it as part of his 30-Day Challenge, finishing in 24:30.  NMA’s representing today!

I’m really beginning to think that this Boston Marathon thing, a goal that for the past seven years has been my reason for running, might happen this year.  In fact, I’m even starting to daydream about faster times than the requisite 3:10:59.  That’s a problem I have– I really love setting big, inspiring, almost impossible goals.  Once they start to seem even a little bit achievable, I start getting bigger ideas in my head.  In this way, I am never able to achieve goals; by the time I achieve them I’ve already moved on to tougher ones!  So I’m doing all that I can to keep 3:10 as the number in my head for the Wineglass Marathon.  Plus, training for anything faster would really increase the chance of an injury.  And I’ve had quite enough of that this year, thank you very much.

Amazing Grass

After the race today, Erin and I had a smoothie with Amazing Grass Green Super Food in it.  It was SO much better than previous greens powders I’ve tried.  It really didn’t taste like anything other than our normal smoothie.  We’ve also tried the Chocolate Green Superfood mixed with almond and soy milk, and that’s been good too.  Not quite as chocolately-delicious as normal chocolate milk, but far better than say, chocolate protein powder.  Check out Erin shake-shake-a-shakin’ it in the rad cup they sent us!

[Erin shakin' Amazing Grass photo]

I’m going to try hard to get the first draft of my new Cooking with Veggies page up tonight.  No pictures or multimedia yet, but still some great tips for you kitchen newbies.  I’m also getting excited for the season premiere of The Next Food Network Star tonight, though for me it’s no Top Chef.  Thankfully, I don’t like watching much TV, and I can only imagine that blogging about TV isn’t much fun, so you don’t have to worry about much TV-talk here.  If there’s anything pertinent to this blog, I’ll mention it; otherwise, I’ll keep the can-you-believe-what-Bobby-Flay-said’s to myself.



India Pale Ale Risotto

Just a quick one today; I’m hard at work on my new Veggie Cooking Tips page.  It’s coming along well and shaping up to be a really good resource for those new to cooking.  I wish I’d have had it when I started!  It really could be called “How to Follow Recipes,” because it’s much more about how to do the things cookbooks tell you to than about how to put together meals.

IPA Risotto

India Pale Ale (or IPA, to those in the know) has enjoyed a not-so-cult following over the past few years.  The beer style is extremely hoppy, evident in the bitter “green” taste and the strong aroma, and relatively high in alcohol (usually 4-8 percent).  Legend has it that the style came about out of necessity; to ship beer from England to India back in the day required lots of alcohol and hops to prevent spoilage.  There are even some “imperial” IPA’s with alcohol content over 10 percent; these are a delicious way to start off an evening, just don’t plan on it being too long an evening.

So I picked up a few of these babies the other day, and decided to use them in some risotto primavera that I was making.  I figured the hoppy taste would go nicely with all the spring vegetables, and since I didn’t have any decent white wine on hand, there wasn’t much choice anyway.

[IPA risotto photo]My last risotto was delicious but wasn’t much of a looker, and this one isn’t pretty either (I swear it looks more appetizing in person).  But it did taste good again.  Although I must say, I don’t think the IPA really did all that much; it probably would have tasted much the same with white wine.  But it’s fun to put what you’re drinking in your food, so why not?

To make this risotto, just use the previous risotto recipe, adding about 3/4 cup of IPA when the rice starts to squeek, and waiting for it to evaporate before adding any vegetable broth.  Replace the sun dried tomato, asparagus, mushrooms, and basil with some spring vegetables of your choosing.  I used sugar snap peas, asparagus, and broccoli, sauteing them instead of steaming and just adding them to the risotto at the last minute.

Bel Air Town Run

My 5k is tomorrow; I’m really looking forward to seeing how I do at a short race.  Amazingly, with all the marathons and halves I’ve done, I’ve never run a 5k race! So my time is anyone’s guess, but anything with a “1” in front of it will make me very happy.  I’ll post results and photos tomorrow to let you know how I did.



Amazing Grass and Banana Tempura Sushi

Amazing Grass

I’ve been big on greens recently.  Whereas I used to think about protein, carbohydrate, and fat numbers when I planned meals, nowadays it’s all about how many vegetables I can get.  I’m not ready to proclaim myself one of those alkaline dieters yet, but there is a noticeable increase in the level of energy I feel when I’m getting lots of greens.  I’ve even resorted to putting spinach in my smoothies, something I would have laughed at just a few months ago!  So I was very excited to get a package from Amazing Grass yesterday, with all this great (and green) stuff in it.

[Amazing Grass products]

A few greens “meals,” lots of greens and wheat grass powders for mixing with water or milk for a quick energizer, and even some whole-food energy bars (important: whole food, not health food).  Plus a fun shaker cup!  I’ll be trying all of this over the next few weeks, and I’ll let you know how it is.  I can’t wait to try the chocolate ones.  Thanks, Amazing Grass!

[Amazing Grass smoothie]Erin and I substituted Amazing Meal for the protein powder in our smoothie today.  Organic, raw, vegan, soy free, and loaded with greens and antioxidant fruit.  Perhaps best of all, it didn’t turn the smoothie green-grey.  And it was delicious!  Here’s the recipe we used today (for a single smoothie):

  • 1/2 cup Trop 50 orange juice
  • 1 packet Amazing Meal
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp flaxseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 small handful each of frozen blueberries, blackberries, and cherries

Vegetarian Sushi

[Vegetarian sushi photo]We got dinner to-go yesterday from a place that makes sushi in addition to standard Chinese takeout.  I used to love sushi when I still ate fish regularly.  But although I’m not opposed to eating fish every once in a while, fish hasn’t appealed to me recently, especially not raw.  So in addition to a tofu and mushroom dish, we chose some vegetarian sushi options: an asparagus, avocado, and cucumber roll, a sweet potato roll, and a banana tempura roll!  I’m such a sucker for anything new and strange on menus, “banana tempura” being a prime example .

These were pretty good, not as good as really fresh fish sushi but better than old, slimy fish sushi.  The sweet potato roll was by far the best, the vegetable roll the worst, and the banana tempura was strangely sweet-salty but tasty.  Sort of weird with soy sauce and wasabi though, for me.  And, because these are the pictures that pay the bills– I give you Erin and me shoving rolls into our mouths.

[Erin eating sushi]

[Matt eating sushi]

I still have my IPA risotto to post; it was  justifiably (I hope) superseded by the free greens and banana tempura.  I’ll do my best to get it up later today or tomorrow.  Also, my “Veggie Cooking Tips” page is coming soon!  I’ve decided that it will better serve as a separate page than as a post, so that you can refer back to it easily whenever you come across an ingredient you don’t know how to deal with.  So keep an eye out!

Alright, I’m off to get new running shoes today.  My marathon is only 17 weeks away, so official training starts in one week!